More concern about future of small nonprofits

A robust sector includes nonprofits big and small and in-between. Keep repeating that.

In her latest op ed piece in The Nonprofit Quarterly, “Mom and Pop Giving Over to Big Brother?,” editor-in-chief Ruth McCambridge, shares our concern about national trends that overlook the value of “small, locally controlled organizations to civic life.”

She goes on to note that small businesses have disproportionately shed jobs in this recession and cites examples that indicate that this may be the result of government policy directing recovery funds toward the biggest corporations and away from the small guys. Ruth worries whether this will be repeated for nonprofits as this Administration works with “large philanthropic organizations to craft … approaches to ‘social  innovation.'”

We have raised the same question in different forms in this blog . See Now I’m Worried – Who decides what is effective and who should be funded or Are nonprofits only safety nets? among other entries.

If we get too caught up in focusing funder attention on “taking programs to scale,” we are destined to overlook the critical community building that can only be done by small, in-the-neighborhood organizations. Or, those scale-ups may overlook the impact of design that is an adaptation to local circumstances that doesn’t scale well or shouldn’t be scaled but should be redesigned for a new locale or new population. Or, even more likely, we may tend to  forget that social change depends on a continuum of organizations, people and actions to finally tip power balances and produce desired improvements.

Thanks to The Nonprofit Quarterly for using its national platform to continue to remind the top of the nonprofit infrastructure that this is a complicated world and that the contributions of the little guys can’t be dismissed or ignored.

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